Description & Overview

A Johnson’s Nursery origination; J.N. Plant Selections introduction, the Wisconsin Red™ Musclewood is a fantastic small-scale tree with a dense canopy! Improved fall color on our Wisconsin strain is reliably orange-red. Its leaf and bark characteristics resemble a small beech tree with great fall color. Not hard to transplant.

Core Characteristics

Category: Tree

Wisconsin Native: No - Variety of North American Native

USDA Hardiness Zone: to zone 4

Mature Height: 25-30 feet

Mature Spread: 25-30 feet

Growth Rate: Slow

Growth Form: Small stature tree, broadly oval dense canopy.

Light Requirements: Full Sun to Full Shade

Site Requirements: Adaptable to many soils, with best performance on rich wet-mesic sites. Tolerant of mildly alkaline soils.

Flower: Catkins, monoecious

Bloom Period: April-May

Foliage: Dark Green

Fall Color: Orange-Red

Urban Approved: No

Fruit Notes: Nutlet, turning red-orange to brown at maturity. Heavy seed crops every 3-5 years.

Suggested Uses

Wisconsin Red™ Musclewood works well for screening, understory planting, as a specimen tree, and for heavy shade.

Like many Musclewood it’s valued for its distinctive ornamental features, including a smooth, sinewy bark resembling muscle tissue and striking red fall foliage. Ideal for small garden spaces, it can serve as an attractive focal point or natural understory component in larger landscapes.

Wisconsin Red™ is well-suited for planting along pathways and residential areas, where its moderate size and unique appearance can be fully appreciated.

Additionally, its tolerance to a variety of soil types and conditions, including wet areas, makes it a versatile choice for rain gardens and woodland gardens, enhancing biodiversity and providing habitat for local wildlife.

Download Wisconsin Red™ Musclewood Plant Slick

A Johnson's Nursery origination; J.N. Plant Selections introduction, the Wisconsin Red Musclewood is a fantastic small-scale tree with a dense canopy!…
A Johnson's Nursery origination; J.N. Plant Selections introduction, the Wisconsin Red Musclewood is a fantastic small-scale tree with a dense canopy!…

Wildlife Value

As a native, Wisconsin Red Musclewood provides both food and habitat to a myriad of wildlife in Wisconsin. The seeds, buds, and catkins are eaten by songbirds, grouse, pheasants, turkey, fox, and squirrel. The twigs and leaves may be consumed by rabbits and deer, although it is not a preferred species.

Maintenance Tips

Like most deciduous trees, Wisconsin Red Musclewood should only be pruned during the dormant season after its leaves have dropped. However, its slow growth rate makes pruning unnecessary except to remove problem branches or dead wood.

Protect the easily damaged smooth-barked trunk from mechanical and animal damage over winter with a vinyl tree guard or mesh fencing.

A Johnson's Nursery origination; J.N. Plant Selections introduction, the Wisconsin Red Musclewood is a fantastic small-scale tree with a dense canopy!…

Pests/Problems

Anthracnose, Botryosphaeria canker, and Nectria Canker are all known pathogens for Musclewood, but maintaining the health and vigor of the Wisconsin Red Musclewood through proper mulching and watering makes these diseases less likely to impact the tree.

Leaf Lore

Wisconsin Red was created using the genetics of a former J.N. Plant Selections heavyweight, J.N. Strain Musclewood. Although J.N. Strain exhibits beautiful fall color, Wisconsin Red is reliably red-orange, every time. The Wisconsin Red strain also has improved vigor, making it that much more valuable as a landscape plant.

We also propagate the straight species of Musclewood, Carpinus caroliniana and other Musclewood varieties for those who are looking to naturalize an area.

Companion Plants

Ironwood, Serviceberries, American Elderberry, and Viburnums.

A Johnson's Nursery origination; J.N. Plant Selections introduction, the Wisconsin Red Musclewood is a fantastic small-scale tree with a dense canopy!…
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Written by Johnson's Nursery